Sharif Abdel Kouddous / The Intercept & Daniel Larison / The American Conservative – 2016-01-12 00:24:06
In Yemen, Civilians Suffer
Relentless Bombing by Saudi-led Coalition
Sharif Abdel Kouddous / The Intercept
(January 11, 2016) — After nearly 10 months of war, the destruction of Yemen continues with little respite for civilians.
On Sunday, a hospital in northern Yemen supported by Doctors Without Borders (known by its French acronym, MSF) was bombed, killing at least five people and destroying several buildings that were part of the facility. Ten people were injured in the attack, including three of the group’s staff.
The humanitarian group said it cannot confirm the origin of the attack but that planes were seen flying over the facility at the time. The only air power currently operating in Yemen is a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states that have waged a relentless bombing campaign since March.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in the war, including over 2,800 civilians, the majority of them from airstrikes, according to the United Nations. The United States has backed the Saudi-led coalition with logistical and intelligence support, including crucial aerial refueling and targeting assistance, as well as billions of dollars worth of arms sales.
This is the third MSF facility to be bombed in Yemen in less than three months. In October, airstrikes destroyed an MSF hospital in Haydan, while a health center run by the group in Taiz was hit by the Saudi coalition in December. Dozens of medical facilities have been destroyed or damaged in the conflict by Saudi airstrikes, as well as, on the other side, indiscriminate shelling by the Houthis and their allies.
“We strongly condemn this incident that confirms a worrying pattern of attacks to essential medical services and express our strongest outrage as this will leave a very fragile population without healthcare for weeks,” said MSF’s director of operations, Raquel Ayora, in a statement.
The Shiara hospital hit on Sunday lies close the Saudi border in the Razeh district of Saada province. Saada, a stronghold of the Houthi rebels the coalition is fighting, has been subjected to some of the fiercest bombardment in Yemen, causing widespread destruction and massive displacement.
The hospital had been bombed before MSF started supporting it, in an airstrike in September that killed two patients and destroyed several departments in the facility. The only functioning hospital in Saada lies in the provincial capital, leaving hundreds of thousands of Yemenis in the area without adequate access to medical treatment for war injuries as well as for ailments like malnutrition and malaria.
Since April, the Saudi-led coalition has imposed a crippling siege on Yemen, by far the poorest country in the region. Severe import restrictions on basic goods have led to a deepening humanitarian crisis, with over 21 million people now in need of basic assistance — more than anywhere else in the world.
The blockade comes under the rubric of an arms embargo imposed by a UN Security Council resolution that was drafted largely by the Gulf countries taking part in the US-supported Saudi coalition.
On the other side of the front lines, the Houthis have also blocked access to humanitarian aid within the country, imposing a vicious internal siege on Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city.
Last month, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, ironically lamented the humanitarian situation in Yemen, stating in a tweet: “Grim briefing on #Yemen today. Yemen’s future on the line: over 700 schools destroyed/damaged; 2x increase in malnourished kids in just 9mo.” Her statement has been criticized for hypocrisy.
“Such statements ring hollow,” said Belkis Wille, the Yemen researcher for Human Rights Watch, pointing out the direct role played by the US in the war and its refusal to push for accountability by holding its own investigations into airstrikes.
The coalition has lashed out at the criticism of its military campaign. Yemen’s pro-Saudi government even expelled a UN human rights envoy last week over what it called “unfair statements.” The expulsion came after Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, criticized the “terrible toll on civilians” in the conflict.
The move caused an uproar and the government begrudgingly reversed its position two days later “because of the fuss created around the matter and caused by media reports,” according to a letter from the Yemeni mission to the United Nations.
The coalition also airdropped cluster bombs on residential neighborhoods in the capital, Sanaa, for the first time on Wednesday, according to Human Rights Watch. The group identified the munitions as from a CBU-58 cluster bomb manufactured at a plant in Tennessee in 1978.
On the same day as the cluster bomb attack, Sanaa was targeted with some of the heaviest bombing by the coalition in months. Warplanes struck a center for the blind, a wedding hall, the city’s chamber of commerce, and a residential neighborhood. The bombing came after the breakdown of a nominal ceasefire that was declared during UN-sponsored peace talks in December.
“The Saudis are using missile strikes as political exclamation points,” said Haykal Bafana, a lawyer and consultant in Sanaa. “I don’t know whose attention they are trying to get. Anytime I hear jets flying over me thoughts flash in my mind of me, my wife, and my kids dying.”
The next round of peace talks, which were scheduled for mid-January, have been postponed until the end of the month after a rejection by the Houthis.
“In order to have a viable peace process you need to have a group of sides involved in the war that actually want peace,” said Adam Baron, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a founding member of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies.
“As all political sides think they’re winning, Yemenis are paying the price of the conflict with a deepening humanitarian crisis, destruction of infrastructure, and the unraveling of the country’s entire social fabric.”
The Indefensible War on Yemen Continues
Daniel Larison / The American Conservative
(January 11, 2016) — The Saudi-led, US-backed war on Yemen continues, and the UN is once again calling attention to the coalition’s war crimes:
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, warned Friday that a Saudi-led air coalition that is supported by the United States may have committed war crimes by using cluster munitions in heavily populated neighborhoods in Yemen.
The UN chief has “received troubling reports of the use of cluster munitions” in several Jan. 6 attacks in Sanaa, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at the world body’s headquarters in New York. “The use of cluster munitions in populated areas may amount to a war crime due to their indiscriminate nature.”
Human Rights Watch also reported on the use of cluster bombs in the capital last week:
“The coalition’s repeated use of cluster bombs in the middle of a crowded city suggests an intent to harm civilians, which is a war crime,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “These outrageous attacks show that the coalition seems less concerned than ever about sparing civilians from war’s horrors.”
This is only the most recent example of the coalition’s use of cluster munitions in this war. Evidence that the Saudis and their allies have been using cluster bombs appeared within the first few weeks of the intervention.
Despite the evidence of the Saudis’ use of such indiscriminate weapons in civilian areas, the US continues to aid the Saudis in their war effort, and the administration has avoided publicly criticizing the coalition for its many documented abuses.
Over the weekend, a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in northern Yemen was bombed, and the Saudi-led coalition was almost certainly responsible for that attack as well. The hospital was located in Saada province, which the Saudis illegally declared a military target last year, and witnesses reported seeing coalition aircraft overhead.
It is the third medical facility associated with MSF in Yemen to be attacked, and in the other two cases the coalition was also responsible. This comes on the heels of the bombing of a rehabilitation center for the blind.
The coalition not only uses inherently indiscriminate weapons in civilian areas, but it has attacked civilian targets with regularity since the bombing started in March.
It is not a surprise that most of the civilian casualties in the war have been caused by coalition bombing, since the coalition has repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for civilian life. If anything, the Saudi-led coalition is becoming even more reckless as their failing campaign drags on.
On top of all this, the country’s humanitarian crisis only gets worse as Yemen continues to be strangled by the Saudi-led blockade. The UN warned last month that half of the country faces famine.
Thirteen million people are at serious risk of starvation in Yemen, and millions more are scarcely faring much better, and the Saudis’ blockade is the chief reason why. This is the indefensible war that the Obama administration has supported unstintingly with weapons, fuel, and intelligence for the last nine and a half months.
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